Questions that can be considered at Tu B'Shevat seders
It is hoped that the questions below will be helpful to people leading Tu B'Shevat seders, as a way to increase audience participation. Suggested responses are given following the questions. Please send me suggestions for additional questions and for improved answers.
1. What is the origin of Tu B'Shevat?
Tu B'Shevat is first mentioned in the Mishneh (Rosh Hashanah 1:1) as a cut-off date for the tithing of fruits for the Temple priests and for the poor.
2. Where is Tu B'Shevat mentioned in the Tanach?
It is not mentioned there at all. It is first mentioned in the Mishneh, as mentioned above.
3. Why are we considering trees and fruits and nature in the middle of the winter?
The kabbalists of Sefat restored the holiday in the 16th century after it had lost its usefulness in 70 CE when the Temple was destroyed and they emphasized the eating of many fruits, especially those from the seven species mentioned in Deuteronomy and other fruits mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures and/or common to Israel.
4. Why was the 15th of Shevat singled out to be the 'New Year for Trees?"
This is the date when in Israel generally the heavy rain has ended, the ground is starting to warm up, the sap is starting to flow in trees, and the almond trees (Shakadim) are starting to bud.
5. What are 10 benefits that we get from trees?
1. fruit and nuts
3. wood for fires and warmth
7. sink for CO2
8. reduction of flooding
9. reduction of erosion
10. maple syrup
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
, is Professor Emeritus, College of Staten Island
; Author of "Judaism and Vegetarianism," "Judaism and Global Survival," "Mathematics and Global Survival," and "Who Stole My Religion? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet," and over 200 articles at JewishVeg.org/schwartz.